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How to Relocate Abroad

How to Relocate Abroad

07/24/2012

in Travel

*Beep Beep* Taxi? Taxi? You need taxi?

Every traveler is used to hearing these words as soon as they exit an airport, no matter where in the world they arrive.

People travel differently. There are 2-week vacation travelers, quickly-moving backpackers, and long term travelers who remain for two months or longer. I’m definitely the type of traveler who likes to settle in a location for at least a couple months—usually a minimum of four.

So one question I often get is “how do you find a new place to stay in a new city?” For many, this seems to be one of the most difficult questions to answer—“What am I going to do once I land in a new city?”

How to move to a city for 2+ Months

Moving to a new city is different than traveling. Most short term tourists tend to stay in hotels. Most backpackers stay in hostels. When staying in a city for multiple months though, it’s often best to find an apartment (or host family, if you’re learning a language).

I follow a pretty common pattern when I move to a new city.

Before arriving

I usually book a place to stay before I arrive. If I’m going to be studying the language, I try to find a host family.

A host family is a great experience when you are learning a language. You get to live in the same house as a native family and often you get to eat breakfast/dinner with them. This is a perfect opportunity to practice the language.

How do you find a host family? There are a few ways to do it.

First of all, are you studying the language through a language school? Then check with your language school. They will often set up host family accommodations for you. For example, I studied at this language school in Valencia, Spain. The school set up host family accommodations.

Otherwise, you can just google search “host family [city name]” or “homestay [city name]” to look for other opportunities.

If you aren’t learning a language, why not? You could learn a new language in 90 days.

What if you aren’t studying a language?

If I decide not to do a homestay, I’ll start off by staying in a hostel. Moving to a hostel is the quickest and easiest way to find a quick place to stay in a new country——and you don’t even need to book it before arriving.

I generally use HostelWorld.com to research hostels. Head over to HostelWorld and you’ll see a very simple interface for booking hostels in any city. For example, imagine I’m moving to Medellin, Colombia. I would head over to HostelWorld, and key in the city. Each hostel will have several reviews that are separated by Character, Security, Location, Staff, Atmosphere, and Cleanliness. Different people have different cares when they travel—for example, I don’t care about cleanliness at all. I care much more about atmosphere (party hostel? Or chilled out?) and location.

Read through reviews of a few hostels and decide which one you like. Booking a hostel is easy—just choose ‘Book Now’ and put down a deposit.

Btw, HostelWorld charges a small fee for booking, but if you sign up for my friend NomadicMatt’s newsletter, you’ll get a free 6 month gold card (meaning no fees!).

Hostels are great because it’s an easy and cheap way to meet other travelers in the same city. Hostel staff will know the fun things for you to do in a city, and how to get around. Like a free tour guide!

Even better than hostels: Couchsurfing

Nothing has changed my life more than discovering Couchsurfing. I mean it—before I learned about Couchsurfing, I was an awkward, shy, weird guy. Couchsurfing really brought me out of my shell and turned me into a friendly, sociable person.

I’ve talked about Couchsurfing before, but it is basically a system for connecting travelers to friendly people who want to share their couches and culture.

Below, you can see the search—I searched for hosts in New York, and found 15,891 people who have a couch they are willing to share. Not everyone will say yes to sharing their couch, so you’ll need to send out multiple messages well ahead of time. But Couchsurfing lets you really experience a local culture, because you actually get to stay at someone’s house who lives in the culture.

Once You Arrive

So now that you have arrived in the city and at your hostel, it’s time to live a little. Spend a week or so getting used to the city. Go out during the day and explore. Go out at night and have a good time. Check out the different areas of the city and think about which one fits you the most—where do you want to live?

Whether staying at a hostel or a homestay, my first priority is always to meet locals. I want to get deep into the culture or a city.

I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is via Couchsurfing. I just talked about how to use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay. You can also use Couchsurfing to find events, parties, and groups. Check it out.

At the top of the Couchsurfing page, there is a button for Groups. Click it, and type in the name of the city where you’re staying. Every city has it’s own group, and members will often post parties and events in this group. For example, you’ll see the group posts for Florence, Italy in the image below. As you can see, there are a ton of options! People are trying to meet up—to practice language, to get drinks, or even to go sailboating!

I will also find individual Couchsurfers to message for coffee, and meet up and make friends.

Your experience in a new city is 90% the quality of the people you meet, not the things you see or the museums you visit. So, make sure you spend time trying to meet the right people.

Great! At this point, you’ll have a group of friends, a place to stay, and things to do. Once you have friends, you’ll find plenty to do in a new city.

Have you ever thought of moving abroad? What cities would you consider going to? Let me know in the comments.

{ 14 comments… }

Cornel August 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I have lived in 4 countries in the last 5 and years. If you are staying long term it is very worth it to couchsurf a little before deciding on an area to stay in.

Although it might be a bit pricier here and there, airbnb.com offers another way of staying with people in a city and experiencing the different cultural side of things.

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John D'Alessandro August 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Maneesh,

Great choice in Medellin (and Colombia, in general) I lived in Bogota and Bucaramanga for a year and a half and ended up marrying a Colombian. We’re going to be back in Bogota in October. Let me know if you are ever in the capital.

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Agota August 6, 2012 at 2:03 am

Maneesh, maybe you want to write a separate article about the making friends part of relocation, since this is where most people (myself included) really struggle.. :)

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Agota August 6, 2012 at 2:00 am

In Valencia right now (..came to visit my friend for two weeks..then decided “Oh, well, I can stay here..” )..

I wouldn’t recommend staying in a hostel if you’re planning to stay for several months, since hostels are expensive when compared to renting a room in a flatshare.

I’d say stay in a hostel for a week or two, explore the city and see in which neighborhood you’d like to live, then find a room in a flatshare.

It’s easier to find a room if you’re staying for three months or so, but you can find something for two months or even a month as well.

It’s very easy during the summer months (at least in London and Valencia), because many people are leaving for holidays and one to sublet their rooms for a short period of time (e.g. I rented out my room for one month during July, good for me because I save money on rent, good for the girl who took the room because she had time to find her own place in Valencia).

P.S. Also, a good alternative for hostels is staying in a flatshares that rent rooms for few days (common in Valencia, I’ve seen the same in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and London). You get your own room for like 10-20eu/day. The disadvantage of this is that those flatshares are usually not centrally located.

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Philipp August 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Airbnb is havong more and more nice options for arriving in new places. It’s a little bit like a commercial version of couchsurfing, so with less spirit but more comfort. Exceptions on both sides ;)

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sam August 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I like the couch surfing concept and I’ve just signed up. Its certainly a cheaper alternative and agreat way to find accommodation, make new friends and soak up culture. Thanks!

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Jeffrey August 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I never realized you could just do a homestay! Definitely going to keep that in mind.

I’ve definitely thought of moving abroad, but haven’t done it yet. It’s definitely a dream of mine, and I hope to check out places like Berlin, Chiang Mai, or anywhere that sounds interesting, really.

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Antonio Lazo July 31, 2012 at 9:32 am

Maneesh, great post. I’m from the US and have been living in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the past two years. Two great resources I use to meet both locals and all types of travelers/tourists are though groups such as http://www.internations.org (many chapters worldwide) and http://www.spanglishexchange.com (Argentina and Spain). I haven’t checked out Couch Surfing, but sounds like a great option.

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Gary July 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

Check out Homestaybooking.com , i found it to be the best and most convenient in a tight situation..great post!

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Rob July 26, 2012 at 7:30 am

We always find we need our own space when we travel, partly because we work full-time on the road, so it’s hard to beat Airbnb. We tend to stay in Airbnb apartments longer-term, but it could also be a great way to test out different neighborhoods before deciding where to settle more permanently.

You still get the feeling of living like a local because you’re surrounded by other people’s possessions, but if learning a language is your main aim then it’s got to be hostels, CS and host families all the way.

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Markoss July 26, 2012 at 5:57 am

Definietly Berlin for now :)

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Pahn Yeh July 25, 2012 at 12:10 am

I’ll be going to China for a year in a few months to learn martial arts and meditation! Just went there for 4 months a couple weeks ago and decided to make it a longer trip.

I have a question for you. How can you still apply and receive mileage credit cards while you are abroad?

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maneesh July 28, 2012 at 7:22 am

I usually have the cards sent to my parents, and then they scan and send me the card numbers, and I just spend money online.

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Pahn Yeh July 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

problem solved. Smart man, thanks for the advice!

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